Old Elthamians and Chinnor put promotion credentials to the test

Josh Davies dots down for Chinnor
Josh Davies dots down for Chinnor
©Aaron Bayliss/Get Photography

Promotion chasing Old Elthamians and Chinnor clash this weekend with both sides fully aware of the magnitude of this encounter.

As things stand, OEs sit two points behind second placed Chinnor and Gavin Lach’s side will know anything less than a victory may not be good enough. In terms of Chinnor, second spot still remains theirs to lose and a win tomorrow at College Meadows would see Matt Williams’ team take a huge step towards a top two finish.

Keeping a close eye on proceedings in Eltham will be league leaders Bishop’s Stortford. The men from Silver Leys moved back to the summit of National Two South last Saturday after securing a victory in their game in hand against Canterbury and now they will be keen to continue their momentum at this crucial stage of the campaign.

At the wrong end of the table, Barnstaple and Barnes clash in yet another huge relegation battle while second bottom Worthing Raiders will be keen to move out of the drop zone when they take on Taunton Titans this Saturday.

Elsewhere in National Two South this weekend, bottom of division Exmouth will be aiming to keep their faint hopes of survival alive when they travel to Bury St Edmunds while Redruth go to Canterbury, Cinderford host Redingensians and Henley Hawks take on Clifton away from home.

Bishop’s Stortford v London Irish Wild Geese

Last weekend saw Bishop’s Stortford regain control of the National Two South title race as they capitalised on their game in hand to move back to the summit. A hard-fought win against Canterbury means Andy Long’s men are now five points clear at the top of the division as we kick-off the final two months of the season.

Stortford deserve to be where they are too. They have kept hot on the heels of Chinnor after a disappointing start to 2017 and now welcome London Irish Wild Geese to Silver Leys on the back of six straight wins. In fact, Stortford have lost just one of their last 11 matches which is certainly a hallmark of potential champions and now the Hertfordshire side need to continue their momentum as we begin the final stretch of this thrilling promotion battle.

In contrast, London Irish Wild Geese are battling for a completely different cause. The side promoted as National Three London and South East champions last May are still doing just enough to keep their heads above water as they look to avoid an immediate return to the fifth tier of English rugby.

As things stand, Wild Geese are only a point clear of the relegation places and they will be fully aware that they must improve on their recent results. One win in five matches is not the kind of form Wild Geese need to be in at such a pivotal stage of the season and they have a tough task ahead of them this Saturday if they are to improve on their recent record. Can Wild Geese pull off one of the shocks of the season?

Old Elthamians v Chinnor

Of course, Bishop’s Stortford will be purely focused on their fixture with London Irish Wild Geese, but they will have one eye on proceedings at College Meadows as their title rivals clash. Old Elthamians host Chinnor tomorrow with both sides knowing a defeat in this game could end their promotion ambitions.

Old Elthamians currently sit third in the table and are now just two points behind Chinnor following their victory in their game in hand against Worthing Raiders six days ago. OEs head into this fixture having won their last four matches and a fifth straight triumph could well a defining moment in the season for Gavin Lach’s side.

Arguably, it is Chinnor’s too lose as things stand. Matt Williams’ men have recovered from a blip just before Christmas to reignite their promotion ambitions and six wins on the bounce is the reason why Chinnor are still firmly in the hunt for a top two finish this term.

They probably knew weeks ago that Stortford would use their game in hand to knock Chinnor off top spot and now it is the turn of the Black and Whites to play the role of the chaser. They currently sit five points behind Stortford, but their main concern will be the OEs who are breathing down their necks. Chinnor won this reverse fixture 40-22 on Bonfire Night and expect more fireworks this Saturday as promotion hopes are put on the line.

Worthing Raiders v Taunton Titans

The last two performances by Worthing Raiders have shown that there is still fight left in their side as they look to avoid relegation from National Two South. A crucial win over Barnstaple was followed by a positive display against Old Elthamians and it means that Worthing welcome Taunton Titans to Roundstone Lane in a much different frame of mind this weekend.

In truth, things were looking bleak for the Raiders two weeks ago, but they are now only four points from safety as they begin the penultimate month of the campaign. One win in 12 matches plus a long list of injuries is why Worthing find themselves in this predicament, but they know that safety is within touching distance and a seventh win of the campaign could see the Raiders move out of the bottom three this weekend.

Defeat to Bishop’s Stortford two weeks ago now means Taunton Titans’ promotion chances are hanging by a thread. Tony Yapp’s men currently sit fourth in the table, but are 12 points behind second placed Chinnor and even though there are still seven games left of the season, it is still a large deficit for the Somerset outfit to claw back.

Taunton have been in the promotion hunt for the majority of the season, but it looks as though they will miss out on a top two spot once again. The men from Hyde Park travel to Worthing tomorrow aiming to return to winning ways and their away record is actually better than their home form this term. The Titans have won 10 of their 12 matches on the road this season (which is joint best away record in the division) and another triumph on their travels would be the perfect start to the month for Taunton.

Canterbury v Redruth

Canterbury’s mixed 2017 continued last weekend. They fell to their fourth loss of the year away at Bishop’s Stortford and the City Men have not been able to recapture their fine form from the end of last year when they won seven games on the spin. That lifted the Kent-based side into the top six, but they have been unable to maintain that position.

Canterbury have won on just three occasions since the turn of the year, but on a positive note, all of those aforementioned victories have come at home. They welcome Redruth to the Marine Travel Ground tomorrow aiming to stay in the top-half of this division and Canterbury will also be hoping to do the double over the Cornwall outfit.

Redruth lost 34-26 in the reverse fixture between the sides back in November and since then, the Reds have suffered contrasting emotions. They mounted a challenge for a top two place at the start of the year as they secured six straight wins, but back-to-back defeats in their last two matches as all but ended their hopes of having a crack at National One.

Marek Churcher’s side are now 13 points adrift of second placed Chinnor and the men from the Recreation Ground may well be aiming for a top four finish to match their success of last season. Redruth travel to Kent this weekend looking to arrested this mini blip they are currently going through and an eighth away win of the campaign would certainly get March off to a positive start.

Cinderford v Redingensians

Cinderford’s run of seven wins in a row came to an end two weeks ago when they were beaten by promotion chasing Chinnor, but now the Gloucestershire side will be hoping to return to winning ways when Redingensians visit Dockham Road this weekend.

It has been a superb response by Cinderford after a patchy first-half of the season following relegation from National One last May. They also suffered a five-point deduction earlier in the campaign, but Paul Morris’ side are now looking back to their best.  Cinderford have won nine times in front of their own supporters this term and another victory would continue their excellent recent form.

Redingensians are also going through a good spell of form at present. After an inconsistent first few months of the campaign, the Rams head to Gloucestershire this weekend having won their last four matches which has lifted them up to seventh place in the league standings.

The men from Old Bath Road finished seventh last term following promotion into this division and they are on course to match their achievement from 11 months ago. Redingensians have won six times on the road this term and with confidence oozing, there is no reason why the Rams can’t make it five wins in a row this weekend.

Clifton v Henley Hawks

Clifton have had a very solid season up to this point. After two terms where they were flirting with the drop, the Lavender and Blacks are now looking straight ahead rather than behind them as we enter March. The South Gloucestershire side currently occupy ninth place and may still harbour ambitions of finishing in the top-half of table.

They are currently eight points behind eighth place as they prepare to welcome Henley Hawks to Station Road tomorrow. Clifton beat London Irish Wild Geese last time out and they have a real chance to record back-to-back victories tomorrow against a Henley side that sit just a place behind them in the table.

Henley Hawks look as though they have finally dug themselves out of a relegation battle after clinching a dramatic victory over Barnes in their game in hand last weekend. As things stand, the Hawks are 12 points clear of the drop and now have their sights set on moving further up the division.

The men from Dry Leas travel to Clifton this weekend having won their last two matches, but both of those victories came at home. Away form has been a problem for Henley this term and with just three games remaining on their travels, the Hawks will be hoping for at least one more positive result on the road.

Bury St Edmunds v Exmouth

Whether you are fighting for the league title or batting to avoid relegation, a bad run of form can cost you dearly at this stage of the season and for Bury St Edmunds they are currently going through a torrid spell.

The Wolfpack prepare to welcome Exmouth to Suffolk this weekend having won just one of their last 11 games. They have actually lost their last six matches which has seen Bury slide down to 11th in the table and they are now only three points clear of the drop. After such an impressive season last term, Bury have been unable to build on that and they must stop the rot when the divisions’ bottom club visits tomorrow otherwise the alarm bells will become louder.

Exmouth are continuing to fight for their National Two South lives and they have every right to believe that they can pull off a great escape. Jon Hill’s men are currently 11 points off safety and 10 behind 14th placed Barnstaple, but a win in their last match over Barnes has given them a slight chance of avoiding the drop.

Following London Welsh’s demise from the Championship, 14th place in National Two South could be enough to save a side this year and that has got to be Exmouth’s aim at this stage of the season. They travel to Bury St Edmunds tomorrow knowing that their hosts are going through a wretched run of form and Exmouth may look to exploit that as they aim for their first away win of the campaign.

Barnstaple v Barnes

Barnstaple have had 13 days to dwell and move on from their defeat to Worthing Raiders. That 32-28 loss against a relegation rival would have been tough take for Barum but Steve Perry’s men must move on from that and take their chance to move out of the bottom three this weekend.

The Devonshire side take on another relegation candidate this Saturday and as things stand, Barnstaple are only one point adrift of safety ahead of this crunch match tomorrow. Barum have won six times all season and all six of those victories have come at Pottingham Road. A seventh triumph tomorrow could be crucial and the turning point in Barnstaple’s season as they continue to fight for survival.

Barnes were unable to capitalise on their game in hand last weekend against Henley Hawks as they were beaten 18-16 after leading 16-0, but like Barnstaple, they must now forget about what might have been and focus on this huge fixture this weekend.

The London-based side did earn a losing bonus-point from their trip to Dry Leas six days ago which was enough for them to move out of the relegation places, and now they have the chance to distance themselves further from the drop zone. Barnes have actually lost their last five matches, but a first away victory of the campaign could be key for their survival chances in National Two South.

National League Rugby